Joseph R. Weisberger Papers
Judge, Providence, R.I.
1932-2001. Bulk, 1956-1997.
Size: 4 linear feet
Catalog number: MSS 1067
Processed by: Rick Stattler, February 2001
©Rhode Island Historical Society
Joseph R. Weisberger was born in Providence in 1920. He graduated from Cranston High School, and then served as a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy during World War II. After the war he graduated from Brown University (1947, class of 1942) and Harvard Law School (1949), and then worked as a Rhode Island attorney in private practice. From 1953 to 1956, he also served as a senator in the Rhode Island General Assembly.
In 1956, he was appointed as an Associate Justice of the Rhode Island Superior Court, and became Presiding Justice in 1972. In 1978, he became an Associate Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court, became Acting Chief Justice in 1993, and then served as Chief Justice from 1995 to his retirement in 2001.
His greatest national impact was in support of judicial immunity to litigation, which was threatened by the 1984 ruling of the United States Supreme Court in Pulliam vs. Allen. Justice Weisberger led the battle to overturn this ruling, enlisting the help of Sen. Strom Thurmond and others to secure passage of a judicial immunity bill by the United States Congress in 1996. Weisberger was also an instructor at the National Judicial College in Nevada from 1966 onward, and thus helped to influence an entire generation of younger judges such as U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter.
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Scope and content:
This collection consists of Chief Justice Weisberger's papers dating from 1956 to the present, including unpublished decisions from his days on the Rhode Island Superior Court, extensive files from his fight to preserve judicial immunity from litigation, papers on his work in training judges across the country, files on the decision to first permit television cameras in the Rhode Island courts, and his work in Constitutional history. The judicial immunity files include frequent correspondence with Rhode Island Senators Claiborne Pell and John Chaffee, as well as other national figures.
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Series 1: Decisions in Rhode Island Superior Court (box 1)
General, as Presiding Justice, 1973-1975
General, as Presiding Justice, 1976
General, as Presiding Justice, 1977
General, as Presiding Justice, 1978
Series 2. Committee Work
Subseries 1. Judicial Immunity (boxes 1 and 2)
1984. Pulliam v. Allen ruling
1985. Comments by ACLU; Conference of Chief Justices survey results
1985-1987. Articles by Justice Weisberger:
"Can Judicial Independence Survive Under Pulliam v. Allen?", 1985
"The Twilight of Judicial Independence: Pulliam v. Allen," 1985
"Judicial Independence," address to the Massachusetts Judicial Committee, 1987
1985-1987. American Bar Association State-Federal Relations Committee
1987-1989. Appellate Judges Conference Committee
1988, February. U.S. Senate Testimony.
1988, January - June. General.
1988, July - December. General.
1989, January - June. General.
1989, July - December. General.
1989, July. "Litigation Against Judges: 1988 Survey Result."
1989, October - November. U.S. Senate testimony.
1990. Lobbyist packet.
1996. "Report on the Restoration of Judicial Immunity," by Justice Weisberger.
Subseries 2. Media Advisory Committee (televisions in the courtroom) (box 2)
1981-1988. Official rulings and reports, 1981-1988.
1981-1982. Von Bulow trial monitoring.
1984. Final report.
Series 2, subseries 3: Rhode Island Commission on Criminal Justice (box 2)
Final report, January 1977
List of offenses and sentences, circa 1977
Series 2, subseries 4: Socio-Technical Systems Prison Report. Box 2.
Chapters 1 through 8, "Multi-State Treatment of Special Offenders Project," 1973
(New England study; chapter 7 deals exclusively with Rhode Island)
Chapter 9, "Disciplinary Procedures..." and "Transfer of Inmates..."
Chapter 11, "Physical Facilities for Special Offender Programs"
Correspondence, etc., 1973
Series 2, subseries 5: Miscellaneous. (box 2)
American Bar Association Federal Habeas Corpus Review Committee, 1987-1989
U.S. Constitution - Victims' Rights Amendments. Correspondence and testimony, 1996-1999.
Series 3. Judicial education (conferences, seminars, etc.) (box 3)
Series 3, subseries 1: Appellate Judges Seminars
1997, Naples, Fla.
1997, Newport Beach, Cal.
Series 3, subseries 2: Impact Decisions, U.S. Supreme Court
1997 judicial training program
1998-1999 summaries by Justice Weisberger
1999-2000 summaries by Justice Weisberger
Series 3, subseries 3: Law schools
Harvard Law School evaluation, 1975
Roger Williams University School of Law, "American Inn of Court," 1996
Roger Williams University School of Law feasibility study, 1991
Roger Williams University School of Law judicial education seminar, 1996
University of Maine School of Law evaluation, 1986
University of Virginia judicial process program, 1985-1986
Series 3, subseries 4: National Judicial College
1987 (International Bicentennial Project)
Series 3, subseries 5: Miscellaneous
Canadian Association of Provincial Court Judges conference, 1987, Vancouver
Conference of Chief Justices, 1997
Demonstrative Evidence, 1996-1997
English Court Tour, 1975
Germany, Cyprus and Malta speaking tour, 1985
Michigan Judicial Conference, 1988
National Conference on Courts, Law and Genetics, 1997
Pennsylvania Judicial Training Program, 1985, 1987
Series 4. Historical and public (box 4)
Series 4, subseries 1: Constitutional Bicentennial
"That Summer in Philadelphia" video screenplay and report, 1987
"Rhode Island: First in Freedom, Thirteenth to Ratify the Federal Constitution," by Justice Weisberger, 1987 (with related papers)
Series 4, subseries 2: East Providence Centennial
Dinner, March 1 1962
Invitations and responses, 1962
Parade, May 30 1962
Series 4, subseries 3: Law Day. Programs and speeches.
1959-1963; summary, 1959-1979
Series 4, subseries 4: Miscellaneous
Brown Learning Community "We the People" program, 1987
Daughters of the American Revolution / Flag Day, 1987-1988
Domestic Violence Seminar, 1997
Domestic Violence Seminar packet, 1997
National Crime Victims Week, 1997
Providence College "Constitutional Aspects of Criminal Law" class, undated
University of Rhode Island "Rhode Island Politics" class with Gov. Sundlun, 1997
Series 5. Miscellaneous (box 4)
Application and withdrawal for settlement counsel position, Civil Appeals Management Program, 1993-1994
Awards and citations, 1946-1995
Awards and citations (in double-oversized storage):
Commission as Rhode Island Senator, 1953
"Brotherhood Award" from Riverside American Legion, 1961
"Outstanding Catholic Layman" award from Newport Knights of Columbus, 1962
Membership certificate in Institute of Judicial Administration, 1971
Honorary commission as Tennessee Colonel, 1973
Citation from Catholic Association of College Alumni, 1978
Biographical sketch, 2001
Florence Murray retirement party, 1996
Newspaper clippings, 1960-1985
Probation guidelines, 1970
Published articles, 1977-1997
Publications - Judge's Journal proofs, 1985-1986
Sample verdict record, circa 1932
Testimonial program, 1977
Unpublished address: "Rise of Barbarism," 1970
Unpublished addresses, 1973-1974
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American Bar Association. Judicial Administration Division.
Chaffee, John H. (1922-1999)
Civil Appeals Management Program
Conduct of court proceedings - Rhode Island
East Providence, R.I. - Centennial celebrations, etc.
Harvard Law School
Heflin, Howell (1921- )
Judges - Education
Judges - Rhode Island
Media Advisory Committee
Multi-State Treatment of Special Offenders Project
National Judicial College
Pell, Claiborne deB.
Prisons - New England
Rhode Island. Commission on Criminal Justice
Rhode Island. Superior Court
Rhode Island. Supreme Court
Roger Williams University School of Law
Socio-Technical Systems Associates, Inc. (Boston, Mass.)
x Television broadcasting of court proceedings (see "Conduct of court proceedings")
Thurmond, J. Strom (1902- )
Unites States Constitution Bicentennial, 1987-1991
University of Maine School of Law
Victims of crimes - Legal status, laws, etc.
Von Bulow, Claus
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